Judge finds probable cause to charge Wauwatosa officer Joseph Mensah in fatal shooting of Jay Anderson
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee County judge decided Wednesday, July 28, there is probable cause to charge former Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah in the 2016 fatal shooting of Jay Anderson Jr.
"The court does find probable cause that Officer Joseph Mensah operated a weapon, in a matter constituting criminal negligence, and in so doing, caused the death of Jay Anderson Jr.," Judge Glenn Yamahiro told the courtroom.
The decision means Judge Yamahiro will appoint a special prosecutor in 60 days who will then decide whether or not Mensah will be charged.
Cheers and chants broke out in the hallway outside the courtroom after the judge announced the decision.
Cheers and chants broke outside the courtroom after judge announced decision. pic.twitter.com/Vp9AQNeTis— Victor Jacobo (@victorjacobo_) July 28, 2021
"This is justice, you guys, this is justice," Jay Anderson Sr., the father of Jay Anderson Jr., told reporters after the hearing. "I just broke down and cried. A relief."
"It's been a long five years and I feel like I can breathe now. You know, it's hurtful that he took my son's life and we will never see him again, Jalen will never see her father again. And it's gonna hurt for the rest of our lives," said Linda Anderson, Jay Anderson's mother.
Mensah shot and killed Jay Anderson Jr. in June of 2016, after finding him sleeping in his car after hours at Madison Park in Wauwatosa.
The report at the time from the Milwaukee Police Department, as part of the Milwaukee Area Investigative Team, stated Mensah went to the park for after-hour loitering violations.
The report says he approached Anderson's car and saw a gun in the passenger seat. It goes on to say Anderson lunged toward the gun. The autopsy revealed Anderson was shot five times in the head and once in the upper right shoulder.
Mensah says Anderson was reaching for a gun before he shot him.
At the time, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office said the shooting -- as well as two others Mensah was involved in over the span of five years -- was justified. Anderson's family tried a federal civil rights lawsuit but that too was dismissed.
It was through a rarely used legal process called a John Doe proceeding that Anderson family attorney Kimberley Motley was able to have the county judge review the case for probable cause.
"There is a structural issue of the DA's office making charging decisions of officers whom they work for. It did not work and it does not work," Motley told reporters.
Wauwatosa's new chief reacted to the decision in a news conference following the judge's decision.
"Now is the time to process the judge's decision and then move forward," Chief James MacGillis said.
MacGillis said he looks forward to the legal process playing out and building relationships with the community.
"My role here is to lead this department moving forward, to establish that community trust, to rebuild that trust and help the community with its healing," MacGillis said. "But again, never losing sight of the people involved -- that's the officers and members of the community and the families."
When asked if the Mensah case would lead to changes within the department, MacGillis replied, "it could," but did not go further.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office did not have comment to share.
Mensah is now a deputy with the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department.
In a statement, the department said, "Sheriff Eric Severson will be reviewing all of his options," and more information would be released later.
Supporters of the Anderson family held a march in Wauwatosa Wednesday night in support of the judge's decision and to highlight the ongoing legal process moving forward.